Susan Agustin & Felix Espina
2 – AB EU
SA 21 – Q
“It’s not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you’re at.” Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
The first ever Manila Supajam held in Fiamma, last October 6, was a gathering of bboys, lockers, poppers, dancers and basically, people who love Hiphop culture. As soon as we arrived at the event which started at 6 pm, one can say that the ‘vibe’ was already ‘hype,’ in accordance to the well-established Hiphop lingo. The event reminded me of community get-togethers that we have in church or in school reunions – the main difference was that this time, it was about dance, it was about Hiphop. So the DJ was playing jams from the old school era, where you truly find the soul, the roots of Hiphop. The emcee turns up the mic and sets the crowd in an uproar as he exclaims “raise your hands if you love Hiphop!”
Four circles, known as ‘cyphers’ were simultaneously “getting off.” Bboys were the most popular of the night – represented from all walks of life and from all over the country. They were pouring their souls out on the floor as they intricately moved from a series of freezes, to combinations of leg twisting footwork, and finally some explosive power moves to seal the deal. It was as if the dance floor was waiting to be seasoned with some unique flavor and style that each individual dancer brought in. There was a special cypher on the edge of the club though that was attention grabbing. A circle of people that were as equally amazing as the bboys down on the floor, only they were hyping up the crowd with the variation of movements they did with their bodies. Others looked other worldly as voluntary multiple convulsions allowed them to exhibit their mastery of the style of Popping. Others kept it true to the roots and brought out the funk as they pulled out their arsenal of locking moves. Then there were those who truly brought out their own style. This is when the dancer transcends hiphop based on the foundations the roots and begins to show what Hiphop is to them. You could see how Hiphop affects the each dancer as to how they treat the music given them.
Another significant observation was that the venue, the attire and the demeanor of people were all heavily influenced by hiphop culture. Fiamma, which is usually frequented by young socialites and party goers who dress up in their best clubbing attire – may it be polos, blazers, body-hugging dresses or heels – had become a haven for sweats, sneakers and snapbacks and swagger loaded dancers. The crowd were in graphic t-shirts that were either vintage alluding pumas or nikes or silk-screened words of expression for their love of hiphop. They wore caps in several postions: the standard way, the backward way, and the tilted-to-the-side-of-my-head way. However, even though they dressed comfortably and simply, these people take shoes a little bit more seriously than any article of clothing would. These ‘fresh’ crowd of young Filipinos were geared for battle – they were ready to give their all as they clash styles and skills with other fellow dancers on the dance floor.
In addition, the people in the community were generally friendly and respectful towards their fellow dancers. People would give way if one person wanted to go in the cypher. People wouldn’t ridicule a style that was different form theirs but instead, they appreciated the uniqueness brought out by the individual to the cypher. It was definitely a great experience to try and participate in the cypher. There would be a moment filled with nail-biting anticipation as you wait for the right ‘song’ or moment to come along in order for you to truly, excuse the lack of a better term, show off what you got! Because in a cypher, all eyes are on you – its up to you on how you’ll play with the song and what moves at your disposal will you use in order for you to make that impact – that impact that shows what hiphop means to you.
As we left the club, we realized even more that hip-hop dance is such a diverse and ever changing thing. Sure, there are appropriate songs, dance moves and styles but what makes hip-hop so diverse is the flavor every dancer puts into it. Two or more dancers can do the same move but it can still look like their own just by the way they perform it. Hip-hop is also diverse because you can incorporate just about anything to your dance. Many freestylers add put in some moves from sports like basketball, golf, baseball, etc. Others use everyday activities like cooking, drinking, changing clothes and reading to add to their freestyle. There are infinite ways of making dance moves your own, and each dancers explores that.
If hip-hop dance itself is diverse, then the dancers are also. The dancers from the event all came from different backgrounds. There were members from CADs (Company of Ateneo Dancers) present and also members of a dance group from UP Diliman called UPeepz. There were also students from different colleges. Some were even high school students. For each college, we noticed that they had a style in common. This is because they train together and eventually learn to move alike and use the same moves. Some dancers weren’t students anymore. They have graduated already and dance as a hobby or as their career. There was also a difference in socio-economic background. Most of the dancers invited by the host were from the lower class. They are the real “street” dancers because they dance in the street or in small spaces around their area. They also have their own specific type of movement and swagger or they way they carry themselves when in the cypher. Of course some dancers were from the upper class who’s movements were different than that of the ones from the lower class. Although most of the dancers present were male, this did not make the female dancers there feel shy. The female dancers remained in step with the male counterparts, and even sometimes outperforming them.
There were many differences between the dancers that night but we also realized that, it did not matter to them/us. People who come from different backgrounds came together for the love of dance to express themselves to other people who loved the same thing as them. Older dancers respected the newer style of the young ones. Dancers from the upper class and lower class understood each other. Male and female dancers connected through body language.
Each time a dancer goes in the cypher, he/she has a story he/she is trying to tell and this is told through dance. It takes a sort of cultural relativism to interpret and understand what each dancer is saying when he/she performs – and that is what is present in events like these. The “helmet” we usually wear when going around the city or viewing things gets taken off when we’re on the dance floor. No judgment, no discrimination.
This is why hip-hop dance is beautiful. There are many upsides to dancing. It is a good form of exercise, it improves memory, it is a form of art, etc. But what is most important to us is that it brings people together without erasing their unique, individual identities. When you have something that blocks every sense of prejudice, then you know it’s good.
“Dance is the hidden language of the soul” – Martha Graham